In the very beginning, one of the most confusing things about trying to lose weight was talking with people who were already thin. It’s like, sometimes, they spoke a completely different language from me. Like I needed to bust out a decoder ring, or something.
For instance – I had a girl friend who was genuinely excited and supportive of me deciding to do better about my eating and working out. I didn’t know much, wasn’t doing much, but knew I wanted to do something. And, as she was already thinner, I thought she had all the answers. Of course.
“Oh, I eat whatever I want. I just make sure I exercise regularly, so I don’t gain weight.”
I thought me eating whatever I wanted was why I gained so much weight in the first place. What the hell do you meeeeeean, you eat whatever you want?
If I’m being honest with myself – years later, of course – I could admit that my rendition of “whatever you want” was very different from hers, and if there was anything to take away from from what she was saying, it’s that her “wants” are very different from mine, and that might be what I need to assess.
In responding to an e-mail from a reader, I actually caught myself saying, “Honestly, I eat whatever I want now–” because I remember how unhelpful that felt the first time I heard it. When you’re a binge eater, an emotional eater in recovery, a food addict, “eating whatever you want” takes a very different tack in comparison to someone who doesn’t have the same attachment or baggage when it comes to their relationship with food.
The reality is, at this point in the game, I do eat whatever I want. However, it’s worth pointing out that my “wants” don’t include things like cupcakes, cookies, cakes, soft drinks (or my beloved pineapple soda that I used to kill a 2-liter of in one day), most breaded items, pasta or brown rice on a consistent basis, anything with a sense of sugar I can’t control or have input on, chips, anything with the word “doodle” in it, and – to be honest – anything that isn’t a fruit or a vegetable. Yes, on lots of occasions, that includes meat of all kinds.
Most people function within boundaries they’ve set up for themselves around food. I don’t eat sweets unless I’ve got a damned good reason for it. If the restaurant Eddy wants to take me out to has a cheesecake mousse, I for damn sure won’t be sitting there and watching him gobble it down. I’m diving in, too. But, that might be the only un-fruit-based sweet I’ll have had all week. If I take Mini-me to the market in the city that sells the Minions cupcakes, with the little Minion made out of cookie dough, you’re darned tootin’ I’m gonna take a bite. But I take her out there maybe twice a year.
And, that brings up another point – eating “whatever you want” doesn’t mean “in whatever amount.” I might want that dessert, but I want it for the experience and not so much the sugar rush, so I’ll eat maybe half of it and then put down my spoon. And, if there’s some after Ed’s done with what he wants, we’ll let the waitstaff take it away. (This is a big thing for me, because I used to be insistent upon cleaning my plate at all times.) I’ll bite some of Mini-me’s Minion – what? It was made of pure raw cookie dough, and it was masterfully done – but after that? The “experience” subsides, and there’s just dough. Sugar. And chocolate. (Mmmm, chocolate.)
It’s also worth noting that sometimes, what people say and what they do don’t match up. It’s also worth noting, unfortunately, that some people “eat what they want” because they’re also fighting some other disordered eating behavior, and certainly, you don’t want to adopt those.
My first instinct is to simply say “don’t ask these kinds of questions of other people,” instead watching what they do instead of asking them questions. Many people are more like politicians than they care to believe, offering the “correct” answer instead of the “accurate” one. Just like how we say, in relationships, to care less about what one says and more about what one does? There’s a reason for that – people over-correct when speaking on themselves, whereas their behavior is more about habit. They’re not thinking about what it’ll look like, they’re just doing.
In short, when someone says something like this to you, pay more attention to what that “whatever” includes. The lesson – if there’s one to be learned – is most likely in what you see, and not what you hear.
What experiences do you have with being told “I eat whatever I want?” What other phrases would you like to see decoded?